Neurodiversity: The Concept

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Internet Resources

There are no accidents in nature... only possibilities.
We really do have to find a way to move away from demonising a state of being that simply is what it is. The fact that its still poorly understood, badly catered to and swept aside is something that parents should be campaigning about -- not getting caught up in fictional causative arguments.
Kevin Leitch
"I love the way my brain works, I always have and it's one of the things I can now admit to myself. I like the way I think in terms of numbers. I like the way I visualize things. I like the way most especially that I can bury myself in work that I love to a degree that makes everybody else in the world looks at me and go, 'God! I wish I could do that.' No, I am not changing anything."
Joseph Shapiro, National Public Radio
As a social movement and as a self-identified culture (who, by the way, actually wrote a letter to the U.N. in an attempt to be recognised as a minority) with a core set of beliefs, they have gone beyond being “subjects” of psychological inquiry and have much to contribute to our understanding of culture and society. It would be even more interesting if the anthropologists who did the research were autistic themselves.
Nancy, Savage Minds
Choose from: Welcome to the Beauty of the Autistic Spectrum; Cure what?; Celebrate Neurodiversity!; Sometimes it's hard being different; Logical, Imaginative... Aspie; and Now where did I misplace that Theory of Mind?
I believe there is a need for a recognition that diversity of learning style and neurodiversity are forms of diversity that need to be respected. Many things considered learning disabilities are actually only learning differences.
Neuro diversity encompasses conditions like Asperger's Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome, Dyspraxia, or Dyslexia.
Larry Arnold
Do we not recognize that if we all had identical minds, no one would be exceptional at anything? Diversity is not only what makes us beautiful, as a species, but it is what has helped us survive and advance.
Neuro-Diversity refers to the spectrum of neurological profiles describing how effective an individual is in processing information.
"We want respect for our way of being," said Camille Clark... "Some of us will talk too long about washing machines or square numbers, but you don't have to hate us for it."
Amy Harmon
Recently, Lenny Schafer made a post to the Evidence of Harm (EoH) maillist in which he helpfully prepared a FAQ on the NeuroDiversity movement. Unfortunately, he made several errors as one would expect from someone uninterested in accuracy and more interested in scoring points. I'll seek to address them here. Please bear in mind that these are my views of Neurodiversity. I'm not a spokesman, these are my opinions having been 'part' of the Neurodiversity movement ever since my daughters needs and Mr Shafers bigotry drove me to become vocal.
Kevin Leitch
Star Trek fan fiction in which neurodiversity is part of the author's vision of the future. '...even small children in the Federation are taught about neurodiversity...'
All current discussion boards pertaining to neurodiversity,
neurodiversity: It's a movement that wants tolerance for brain differences such as those found on the 'autistic spectrum' of conditions (which cause behavioural quirks) as well as tolerance for the diagnoses themselves.
British Medical Journal
The way I see it is like this – I and my wife know our daughter better than anyone else alive. Whilst she is a child, we speak for her in all matters. But the fact is that she is autistic. It therefore is simple common sense that other autistics have thought processes closer to those of my daughter than any NT does. They think in similar ways. Its not a case of speaking for, its more like having a shared reality. If one or more of my kids were gay than I would still speak for them in all matters whilst they were children but not being gay I could not share that reality in the same way as other gay people could. By virtue of their shared reality of autism our kids and autistic adults share an area of being that NT parents can never share. Like it or not, that does give them a commonality and communal existence. With that community sometimes comes a voice. Can you really say, as NT parents, that you are closer in thought process to your kids than autistic adults? When it comes to what makes autistics tick can you really say that you as NT's know better than other autistics?
Kevin Leitch
Interestingly the autistic community has raised the disability rights issue in a more profound way than the physical access aspect of disability rights. Arguing against the able bodied view of cognition they indicate through the examples of autism like Blind Tom that cognition is diverse and the framework of society is askew.
Doyle Saylor
NT is only one kind of brain wiring, and, when it comes to working with hi-tech, quite possibly an inferior one. Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.
Harvey Blume
The whole of human mental or psychological neurological structures or behaviors, seen as not necessarily problematic, but as alternate, acceptable forms of human biology.
Double Tongued Word Watcher
The term neurodiversity is usually used as a statement against prejudice and bigotry towards autism... This could include any of the following: Intolerant attitudes toward autistic behavior that may be perceived as odd or unusual; Intolerance toward difficulties autistic people often have; Discrimination against people for being autistic or because of autistic traits or behaviors; Lack of accommodations for difficulties associated with autism; Attitude that autistics are inferior to Neurotypical people, or that there is something wrong with being autistic; or that autism is a disease that needs to be cured; Institutions designed without consideration of autistics (for example: schools with heavy demand on social skills that may be hard for autistics); Barriers to participation in society due to difficulties associated with autism that could have been accommodated (for example, a technically competent autistic person may lose a job because of social awkwardness or may never get past the interview stage); Lack of protection for autistics in equal employment opportunity legislation.
Aspies for Freedom Wiki
Diversity is not just the way we look, but the way we think !
(A photograph.)
The concept that variance in neurological structure adds needed diversity to the human race. The celebration of that diversity. Or, a word referring to the variety of ways in which the human brain can be wired.
We the people, who are neurologically divergent (autistic spectrum disorders, specific learning difficulties, adhd, tourettes, epilepsy etc.) assert our right to speak for ourselves in determining our rights to education, work, welfare and the right to be who we want to be.
Laurentius Rex
The term Neurodiversity is an inclusive concept... everybody is part of diversity, whether they are in the majority or the minority, the 'normal' or the 'special'. There are no accidents in nature... only possibilities.
This journal is for discussing issues surrounding neurodiversity and for bringing together people with different types of brain wiring. I believe there is no one type of neurology which is the best and the only way.
Neurodiversity is a concept that atypical neurological wiring is a normal human difference that is to be tolerated and respected as any other human difference. The concept of neurodiversity was created by autistic individuals who believe autism is not a disorder but a part of who they are and that curing them would mean killing them and replacing them with different people.
Explanation Guide
Officially, we don't exist. The hordes of psychological "experts" who regularly comment on the supposed near-impossibility of productive, independent lives and successful marriages among autistics, and in so doing blithely consign thousands of children to society's trash heap with every keystroke, haven't yet noticed that we're here.
Featuring t-shirts, hats, mugs, bags, frisbees, and much, much more!
Café Press
Where on Earth did anyone get the idea that ignoring things like chronic diarrhea or Asthma is part of neurodiversity? ... if your child has a diagnosis for all of the above (physical conditions) (and I mean a diagnosis from an actual Doctor, not a quack who'll wheel out a diagnosis because they're 'excited' about trying their brand new pet theory out) then go right ahead and treat them -- to do otherwise would be insane. However, don't make the mistake of thinking that a diagnosis of these things is equitable to a diagnosis of autism.
Kevin Leitch
In the biomedical community, we often throw around the word “cure.” When I use that word, I know what I mean and most other people who practice biomedical know what I mean. We are seeking to alleviate the dysfunctional aspects of ASD in our children. We will never alter the genetic makeup of our children, and to the extent genes make them autistic, they will remain autistic. I can live with that. But I believe that one or more environmental insults has acted in concert with my son's genetic makeup to create stumbling blocks that keep him from using all of this gifts. I cannot believe I am wrong in trying to reduce the effects of those environmental insults.
Wade Rankin
...the genetic mutation that causes Asperger Syndrome is in fact beneficial because it frees humanity from much of the deception and triviality of social situations... 'neurodiversity' is essential to the human species.
Forthright's Phrontistery
The use of the term neurodiversity is not an attempt to whitewash the suffering undergone by neurodiverse people, nor to romanticize what many still consider terrible afflictions (see Peter Kramer's attack on so-called romanticizers of depression). Rather, its use seeks to acknowledge the richness and complexity of human nature, and specifically, of the human brain. The more we study the brain, the more we understand that it functions, not like a computer, but more like a rainforest (see Gerald Edelman's work in this regard). The "brainforest," in fact, may serve as an excellent metaphor to use in the neurodiversity field to talk about how the brain responds to trauma by redirecting neurological pathways, and how genetic "flaws" may bring with them advantages as well disadvantages. Disorders such as autism, ADHD, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, and dyslexia have been in the gene pool for a long time. There must be a reason why they're still there. The work of evolutionary psychobiologists and evolutionary psychologists represent a key component in exploring this fascinating question.
Thomas Armstrong
For those of us who believe strongly in biomedical treatments, it is easy to think it is "the answer" for everyone. Most of us who practice biomedical do so partly because we know that, absent some form of intervention, the odds are that our children would never reach the extremely high functioning level of communication practiced by the teen-aged author of the above-referenced blog. We want our children, when they reach their later teen years, to be able to tell us how they feel about the choices we make in their lives. I hope the choices my wife and I make for our son may enable him to attain a level of independence he might otherwise not achieve. But I am trying to learn to set aside my arrogance and respect the decisions that others make. I am trying to learn to look beyond my own son when I see another autistic child.
Wade Rankin
Neurodiversity is both a concept and a civil rights movement. In its broadest usage, it is a philosophy of social acceptance and equal opportunity for all individuals whose neurology differs from the general, or neurotypical, population. The term is more commonly used, however, to refer to an ongoing campaign to end prejudice and discrimination against autistic people, a group numbering at least 20 million worldwide. (Some estimates of the global autistic population are as high as 60 million.)
Bonnie Ventura
No reasonable person in today's society would suggest that racial minorities ought to be cured of their skin color or their hair texture. And yet, when the genetic traits of a minority group include a neurological configuration that differs from the majority population to any noticeable extent, society's tolerance for diversity goes out the window. The Internet and the mass media are filled with profoundly negative and inaccurate stereotypes about the Aspergian population.
The variety of non-debilitating neurological behaviors and abilities exhibited by the human race.
Most arguments from the neurodiversity camp (at least most that I've come across) seem to come from the point of view of autistics or Aspies themselves. These people are typically adults (or older teenagers) and are speaking out for themselves, proud of who they are and aware of their differences from the norm. Those that are parents also take this approach in raising their autistic children. On the other hand, the staunchest advocates of BioMed approaches and the search for a cure seem to be the parents of young, recently diagnosed children with autism. These parents, for the most part, are not themselves autistic and are speaking out for what they believe is in the best interest of their child with autism. Though they will do what they need to in order to help their children live with their autism in the world, they still hope for a way to allow their children to function typically. And you know what? I think both groups are absolutely right in what they are doing and saying. From the frame of reference they are living in, their actions are perfectly appropriate. In fact, I don't think this is much different than how things work in the NT spectrum.
Brett Miller

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This page was last updated on 5 November 2008, 3:48 pm
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